Still plenty at stake in Big Ten as UW heads to MSU

first_imgYANA PASKOVA/Herald photoThe 2005-06 Wisconsin basketball team has been quite the enigma this season. Night in and night out fans wonder which team will show up to play. Will it be the team that began the Big Ten season with a four game win streak, or will it be the team that proceeded to lose five of its next six games including a loss to unranked North Dakota State?Only time will tell, but with just two remaining games on the Big Ten schedule, it’s gut-check time for Bucky and the Badgers.Before they head to Iowa City for the season finale against the Hawkeyes, UW will take on rival Michigan State Thursday night.This will mark the second meeting of the season as the two teams hooked up in the Kohl Center in early January. On that day, the Badgers protected their home court and blew the Spartans right out of the gym by shooting 51 percent from the field, including75 percent in the second half.While such a shooting performance is not expected to be duplicated, UW guard Michael Flowers believes a similar effort will go a long way.”Most importantly, we got an early lead and just ran with it, and we need to do that on Thursday to give ourselves a good shot at getting the victory,” Flowers said. “We hit a lot of shots, and that’s made things easy, but we were moving the ball well and getting open looks, and those are the kinds of things we need to do again.”Currently, UW is third in the Big Ten with a conference record of 9-5, while Michigan State holds a 7-7 record, despite big wins against Ohio State and Iowa. Similar to the rest of the Big Ten, both Michigan State and Wisconsin have struggled to get victories on the road.”We haven’t done a good job of playing on the road, but I know we can go on the road and get some victories if we just play Wisconsin basketball,” UW guard Kammron Taylor said. “We need to stay focused for the whole 40 minutes, and that has been one our downfalls on the road. We stay focused on our game and block out the crowd.”The Badgers should have their hands full on the defensive end Thursday, as Michigan State brings strength and athleticism to the forefront.The Spartan offense is keyed by the high-flying guard play of Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager, who both average over 18 points per contest while dishing out just over four assists per game.”Those guys are fast and strong,” Flowers said. “It’s not easy to keep players like that in check, but if we stay committed on defense and contest their shots, we should be able to contain them.”The biggest matchup problem for the Badgers will be defending Paul Davis. The preseason All-American is in the top five in the Big Ten in points and rebounds and should present problems for the Badger forwards, who have struggled to defend the post this year.If the Badgers are to steal one on the road, they will have to receive contributions from some of the younger players who have made their presence felt on a depleted UW squad.Together, Alando Tucker and Taylor combine for 34 points, but in order to be successful in Michigan State, a third scorer will likely have to emerge. The Badgers received a needed spark Sunday against Minnesota, as Kevin Gullikson and Joe Krabbenhoft combined for 22 points in the game.”It’s real nice to see the young guys step up at a time like this, with the season winding down and the postseason coming up,” Taylor said. “We need them at this point because it relieves some pressure from the older guys like myself.”And it is no secret that UW head coach Bo Ryan isn’t afraid to use his youngsters.”I’m not afraid to have anybody out there,” Ryan said. “It’s no hocus pocus because if you do the right things, then you’ll play. Guys like Kevin [Gullikson] and Joe [Krabbenhoft] do things that make me think they’re right players for the time.”Regardless of the outcome, the Badgers will truly show what they are made of in these last two road games. Despite the rivalry and the troubles the Badgers have demonstrated on the road, Ryan believes Thursday night’s contest is just another game.”We’ve just got to play like we play at home and stay in sync,” Ryan said. “It seems that there are a lot more grinders on the road, but we’re just going to play ball because you can’t read too much into it. We can’t say do this or do that because of their crowd. We’re just going to play our game and not going to change anything.”last_img read more